Big push for more local government nominations

9 August 2022

Concern that some roles won’t be filled, or key roles will go uncontested at this year's local body elections.

Last election saw the lowest number of nominations in relation to available seats since LGNZ began collecting data. At this rate, we risk seeing an even lower number this year.

“Competition for seats is a sign of a healthy democracy. In 2019 there were over 1600 seats to fill across councils, community boards and local boards and on average we saw two candidates for every vacant seat,” says LGNZ President Stuart Cosby.

“But this time around, many of our councils face the prospect of uncontested appointments, especially those outside of the big cities. Scenarios like the Mackenzie District Council, which has 19 vacancies but only 3 nominations are sobering,” Stuart Crosby said.

“Local Government is an amazing platform to drive change. My message to anyone thinking of standing to get their nominations in immediately,” says LGNZ National Council Member and Young Elected Members Committee co-chair Lan Pham.

“With the Future for Local Government review underway, those elected in October will have a unique opportunity to re-design and shape local government and the role it will play in leading communities into the future. An opportunity that we haven’t seen since 1989. 

“It’s not uncommon to see a flurry of nominations on the morning they close, and we know especially for mayoralties, some have already started campaigning before nominations close.

“But the number of nominations is our key indication of interest and with four days to go, I’m particularly concerned at the lack of nominations for councillors and community board members.

“Currently, hardly any councils in the South Island have more candidates than vacancies and places like Nelson and Greymouth, that were amongst the most hotly contested last time round, barely have a dozen registered nominations between them.

“We know there are many more people who want to be at the heart of local decision making. I was one of them six years ago.

“As a young female, I wasn’t sure if local government was the right environment for me, but my family and peers convinced me that I needed to give it a go.

“In the last two terms, I’ve been able to influence a number of decisions that have truly made Canterbury a better place for the next generation. I’ve also been lucky enough to become a mum during that time.

“It’s important that our council tables reflect the communities they represent. Our communities are increasingly becoming more diverse, so we need a wide range of candidates who are informed, hungry to make changes and care about their community to put their hand up this year,” Lan Pham said.

Bonita Bigham, Chair of Te Maruata Roopu Whakahaere (LGNZ's national collective of Māori in governance roles in local government) and a community board member, encourages anyone who is passionate about their community’s future to look into all the roles available to them.

“It is concerning that we are seeing such low numbers of nominations for community boards. There are districts like Rotorua, South Waikato and Rangitikei, that have less than one nomination across multiple community boards.

“Becoming a community board member is an excellent way to influence local decisions but doesn’t require the same time commitment as a councillor or mayor. It is, however, an equally important job.

“We also know that with 32 Māori wards (more than 51 new Māori ward councillors) across the country, we are going to need more Māori standing for council.

“We are doing a lot of work at LGNZ to put the right supports in place for our elected members following October’s elections. This includes a refreshed two-day induction programme for mayors and we’ve established Te Āhuru Mōwai, a new programme to support Māori elected members,” Bonita Bigham said.

“There are several barriers to people wanting to stand for local government politics including pay, workload and some of the ugly rhetoric directed at elected officials,” Stuart Crosby said.

“LGNZ is acutely aware of these challenges and continues to advocate for changes with the highest levels of decisions makers. After we raised the need to do more to protect candidates ahead of this year’s local government elections, the Government made changes to the Local Electoral Act to remove the requirement for candidates to publish their residential addresses. This goes some way towards keeping candidates safe and we continue to push for more changes including better remuneration and a stronger partnership with central government.

“It takes work to create an inclusive democracy and we all have a part to play.

“If you know anyone who is community minded, committed, future focused and up for the challenge, a role in local government could be just the environment they would thrive in. To nominate someone is an easy process, you just need to two people who are registered to vote in the ward to nominate the candidate,” Stuart Crosby said.